Rates of diabetes have risen rapidly in Middle Eastern countries since 1990, leading to large increases in the number of year of life lost to ill-health, disability or early death.
The conclusion comes from a study of data from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013. The researchers, from the University of Washingto, Seattle and Iran University of Medical Sciences, reviewed 22 countries within the Eastern Mediterranean Region (EMR).
The EMR is a band of countries that stretches from Morocco in North Africa to Pakistan. Towards the centre of this band of countries are Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. These Middle East countries include some of the highest rates of diabetes in the world.
Analysis of the data showed that death rates, as a result of diabetes, rose by 61 per cent between 1990 and 2013. Within the same period, the number of life-years lost to ill-health, disability and early death rose by about 50 per cent.
The age-adjusted rates of diabetes in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Kuwait is more than one in seven having the condition.
In terms of the burden on years lost to ill-health, disability and early death, diabetes represents the greatest burde, followed by heart disease, stroke and chronic kidney disease. Note that heart disease, stroke and chronic kidney disease are common complications of diabetes.
The researchers note that these countries have notably unhealthy lifestyles with high consumption of sweetened drinks and processed meat, and low levels of physical activity.
They conclude stating that, in the region: “Programs and policies are urgently needed to reduce risk factors for diabetes, increase awareness of the disease, and improve diagnosis and control of diabetes to reduce its burden.”

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